Category Archives: Our Story

Riverside Firefighter Gives His Shoes To Barefoot Homeless Man

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Katie Kindelan and published in Yahoo/ABC News on January 19, 2016.)

Photo Credit: ABC News
Photo Credit: City of Riverside Fire Department/Facebook

A California firefighter and his captain are being praised for pulling their fire truck over to give a pair of shoes to a homeless man walking barefoot on a highway.

The firefighters, from Riverside, California, were driving back to the fire station last week from a physical fitness test when they saw an elderly homeless man walking on the side of the freeway, Bruce Vanderhorst, the battalion’s Chief Public Information Officer, told ABC News.

The firefighters turned their fire truck around to help the man and then noticed he was barefoot.

One of the firefighters aboard the engine, David Gilstrap, donated his own pair of sneakers to the homeless man, while the engine’s captain, Rob Gabler, walked over and helped the homeless man put on his shoes.

The moment was captured on camera and shared on the fire department’s Facebook page last Thursday.

Vanderhorst told ABC News the firefighters also offered the homeless man water and access to the city’s homeless services.

“Services are always offered and we tell them, ‘We can get help to you,’” he said. “We’re very proud of the work we do building our community relations and we’re here to help in any way we can whenever those opportunities present themselves.”

Riversiders commitment to making one-other’s life a little better is a great example of Riverside acting as a unified city. The actions of this Riverside firefighter demonstrates that Riverside is a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.

To read the full article, click here.

Mission Inn Holiday Festival Ranked Best In Nation

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in the Press Enterprise on December 23, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Milka Soko
Photo Credit: Milka Soko

The annual Festival of Lights celebration at the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa in Riverside again has ranked at the top of a USA Today poll.

In late 2014, USA Today readers voted it the best public lights display, and on Wednesday it was named the best holiday festival, beating events in San Francisco, San Diego and seven other cities.

The 23rd year of the event features more than 4 million lights, 400 characters on the property and some returning snack favorites like funnel cakes and miniature doughnuts.

Surrounding events like vendors and ice skating will end Jan. 2, but the rest will remain through Jan. 6.

The Festival of Lights is just one of the many things that make Riverside a location of choice for people seeking a great and affordable community. Our community provides an abundance of opportunities to be amazed, inspired, and entertained.

For the entire list of holiday festival, click here.

To read the full article, click here.

Hundreds Gathered AT UCR To Honor Victims Of The San Bernardino Shooting

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Kris Lovekin and published in UCR Today on December 9, 2015.)

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today

About 400 people attended a candlelight vigil near the Highlander Union Building Dec. 4  to honor the victims of the mass shooting in San Bernardino Dec 2, that killed 14 and injured 21, including four UCR alumni.

Among the dead were Sierra Clayborn, 27, who graduated from UCR  in 2010 in biochemistry, and 58-year-old Damian Meins, who graduated in Economics in 1978. Meins spent his career in environmental safety. His two daughters are also UCR graduates.

Jennifer Stevens, 22, who graduated this past June in environmental science, was hospitalized, as was Denise Peraza, 27, who earned her master’s degree in Environmental Science at UCR in 2013.

Wilcox reminded the crowd that “we are becoming more closely connected as human beings, more tightly knit. When we talk about changing the world, when we talk about making the world a better place, we are empowered in ways that humans have never been to do that, through our connectedness.” Coming together in these times of sorrow is a true demonstration of what makes us a unified city.  We are a caring community that has compassion for all people and we stand with San Bernardino in their time of need.

A lone bagpipe played by Mike Terry, head of UCR’s Pipe Band, closed the somber event as the attendees quietly held their electric candles.

To read the full article, click here.

Riverside Non-Profit Is Keeping The Santa Ana River Clean And Beautiful

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Jordan E. Rosenfeld and published in Good.is on December 1, 2015.)

Inland Empire Waterkeepers clean up Mill Creek. Photo Credit: www.Good.is
Inland Empire Waterkeepers clean up Mill Creek. Photo Credit: www.Good.is

Southern California is famous for its beaches, but not many people know it’s home to one of the most unique river ecosystems in the world, the 110-mile Santa Ana River, which is fed by many smaller tributaries. It’s such a special environment that famed biologist E.O. Wilson named it one of the world’s 10 biological hotspots, according to Megan Brousseau, director of the nonprofit organization Inland Empire Waterkeeper. The Riverside, California, group has worked hard to restore these waters and to protect them from pollution.

People don’t know this river is a riparian forest, with great white egrets and blue heron, and home to an endangered species that lives nowhere else in the world, the Santa Ana suckerfish,” she says. “We are absolutely responsible for this species continuing or disappearing, right here in little old California.”

Director, Inland Empire Waterkeeper Brousseau spends a lot of time educating people about their personal part in pollution, and motivates them to recycle and reuse by getting them down to the river, where they can see the effects with their own eyes. By bringing their attention to the intersection between the natural world and their own consumption, she’s better able to encourage recycling and proper disposal.

Overall, what we’re working on is creating ownership and pride,” Brousseau says. “If there is no ownership, then there will be no stewardship. What we really want to do is give this river back to the people. We are cleaning it not only to make it safe and to recreate, but by getting [people] down there, they start to feel like it’s theirs.”

Thanks to her organization’s cleanup efforts, the portion of the river that runs through Riverside—creeks and streams once too full of trash and toxins for anyone to swim or play in them—are now host to kids’ educational summer camps and recreational play that teaches personal responsibility.

Brousseau feels that stewardship, which includes teaching the importance of recycling, should be a part of the curriculum at every grade level. “We would never give somebody a car and not teach them how to pump gas, steer, or change a flat tire. Even in the most remedial job, you give them the tools to do it right. We release our kids with no tools on how to care for this earth. The river is an outdoor education space that is free to 10 schools within walking distance that are Title 1 impoverished,” says Brousseau.

With grant funding, Inland Empire Waterkeeper has been able to sponsor a summer river camp for kids. Under the guise of fun experiments like inspecting the water under microscopes, collecting aquatic insects, and testing water quality, the camp teaches them good habits for life, like recycling and reusing. “All of my life I was told: ‘Don’t drop that chip bag, it will end up in the ocean,’” says Brousseau. But today’s kids are not as aware of the connection between trash and our waterways. “Many kids think I’m full of it, until I take them down for these cleanups and show them the huge pipe dumping right into the river and the Mylar Capri Sun packaging floating by.”

Thanks to grants and a partnership with Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water, parts of the Santa Ana River are on their way back to recreational health. At a joint last cleanup at Mill Creek, volunteers pulled more than 4,500 pounds of trash from the urban stream, including such egregiously dumped items as shopping carts, tires, and carpet rolls. The group has since initiated a program that redirects thousands of pounds of housing and landscape development materials by setting up drop-offs for hazardous trash and big, bulky items.

Organizations such as Inland Empire Waterkeeper are great examples of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar. Riversiders are working together everyday to not only address local issues, but to also have a positive impact on the region, nation, and world.

To read the full article, click here.

Riverside ‘Halloween House’ Returns

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Tracy Bloom and published in KTLA 5 on October 20, 2015.)

The display is the creation of Kevin and Amber Judd of Creative Lighting Displays. It marks the seventh year they’ve put together such a show and the second year in a row at its current location in the 8300 block of Deercreek Drive.

This year’s version — located at the home of Mark and Melanie Betty, who are friends with the Judds — features the theme song from “Ghostbusters.”

In 2014, the attraction was briefly shut down by police because of noise complaints. It went on again, however, after the Judds obtained a special event permit.

“This year, we went through the proper process to get the block party permits,” Melanie Betty said Tuesday.

For years, before relocating the tradition to the Betty household, the Judds hosted it at their own residence.

The “Ghostbusters” theme is perhaps a nod to what the couple wrote on the Creative Lighting Displays Facebook page after receiving the permit.

“Like the GhostBusters said in the movies ‘We’re Baaack!’ We could not have done it without the support of the community so THANK YOU!” the post read.

From the “Halloween House” to the Festival of Lights, Riverside is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s location of choice pillar.  Our community provides an abundance of opportunities to be amazed, inspired and entertained.

To read the full article, click here.

IF YOU GO

Where: 8381 Deercreek Drive, Riverside
When: 7, 7:45 and 8:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Halloween; 7 and 7:45 p.m. Sunday.
Parking: Orange Terrace Park, some on-street parking except in areas where a permit is required.
Viewing: Orange Terrace Park
Information: facebook.com/CreativeLightingDisplays

Affordable Housing For Disabled Veterans Coming Soon

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Suzanne Hurt and published in The Press Enterprise on September 20, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Kurt Miller, The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: Kurt Miller, The Press Enterprise

A World War II officer’s club at a long-shuttered military base is morphing into a new center of hope and healing for veterans in an innovative Riverside housing project expected to open early next year.

The Camp Anza Officers Club, with its huge dance floor, tiki room and paintings of Polynesian beauties, was the site of send-off parties for thousands of officers leaving for combat in the Pacific.

The massive building, which sat at the heart of a vital U.S. Army troop staging area, is undergoing a renovation to make it the centerpiece of the Home Front at Camp Anza.

The $14.1 million project by San Diego-based Wakeland Housing and Development Corp., Mercy House of Santa Ana and Riverside’s housing authority will offer affordable apartments for 29 disabled vets and their families and on-site services to keep them together.

On a tour of the area Wednesday, Riverside City Councilman Jim Perry said the effort to help returning war vets also will revitalize one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods by breathing new life into an important piece of its past.

The historic clubhouse will function as the complex’s community center, offering services tailored to vets and a place for relaxation and meetings. Vets will work with a full-time case manager provided by Mercy House.

Vets will get on-site physical therapy, job coaching and placement, and classes on civilian life skills and financial literacy. They will be connected with Veterans Affairs benefits and vocational training or higher education, said Mercy House Executive Director Larry Haynes.

For vets and their families, there will be on- and off-site behavioral and mental health support, conflict resolution, financial assistance, tutoring and school supplies for kids.

Riversiders commitment to making one-other’s life a little better is a great example of Riverside acting as a unified city. The actions of all the participating organizations demonstrates that Riverside is a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.

To read the full story, click here.

White House Recognizes UCR As A Bright Spot In Hispanic Education

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Mojgan Skerkat and published in UCR Today on September 15, 2015.)

Photo Credit: UCR Today
Photo Credit: UCR Today

The University of California, Riverside has been recognized by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics as a Bright Spot in Hispanic education. The announcement was made Sept. 15, 2015 at the launch of Hispanic Heritage Month and in honor of the Initiative’s 25th anniversary in Washington, D.C.

As a Bright Spot, UC Riverside is part of a national online catalog that includes over 230 programs that invest in key education priorities for Hispanics. In two separate entries, the university is being honored for its student success efforts with the College of Natural and Agricultural Science’s freshman learning communities, as well as for its ethnic parity in campus graduation rates. It is rare to have very little gap between students of different ethnicities.

UCR is a testament to the diversity of our city which falls within the pillars Unified City and Location of Choice.  People have a desire to meet and communicate with others that are not like themselves, and there are many opportunities for that in Riverside

To read the full article, click here.

Riverside Wants To House All Homeless Veterans

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Alicia Robinson and Published in The Press Enterprise on July 19, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise
Photo Credit: Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise

The Riverside apartment David Oakley shares with his girlfriend and their gray cat, Mittens, is a modest one-bedroom with a cramped kitchen, donated furniture and a few framed prints on its off-white walls.

But it’s home, and Oakley is grateful for it.

Before he moved into the apartment seven months ago, Oakley, a 51-year-old National Guard veteran, was homeless for about two years.

Having his own place is “like it used to be, it’s the way it should be,” he said, then added, “It’s kind of, to be honest, like a dream come true.”

Oakley is one of several military veterans helped by an ambitious Riverside program that aims to house all of the city’s homeless veterans by the end of this year.

So far, the program, backed by Mayor William “Rusty” Bailey, has found homes for 11 veterans. It has 21 more veterans linked with caseworkers to help them apply for benefits and find jobs and apartments.

“It’s inexcusable in my mind to have homeless veterans,” said Bailey, a West Point graduate and Army veteran. “(With) 200,000 veterans in the two-county (Inland) region, we need to lead by example and to take care of our troops.”

The Riverside apartment David Oakley shares with his girlfriend and their gray cat, Mittens, is a modest one-bedroom with a cramped kitchen, donated furniture and a few framed prints on its off-white walls.

But it’s home, and Oakley is grateful for it.

Before he moved into the apartment seven months ago, Oakley, a 51-year-old National Guard veteran, was homeless for about two years.

Having his own place is “like it used to be, it’s the way it should be,” he said, then added, “It’s kind of, to be honest, like a dream come true.”

Oakley is one of several military veterans helped by an ambitious Riverside program that aims to house all of the city’s homeless veterans by the end of this year.

So far, the program, backed by Mayor William “Rusty” Bailey, has found homes for 11 veterans. It has 21 more veterans linked with caseworkers to help them apply for benefits and find jobs and apartments.

“It’s inexcusable in my mind to have homeless veterans,” said Bailey, a West Point graduate and Army veteran. “(With) 200,000 veterans in the two-county (Inland) region, we need to lead by example and to take care of our troops.”

House Veterans
Riverside is taking part in a federal program that challenges cities to find housing for all homeless military veterans by the end of 2015.

Participants: A total of 709 city, county and state officials have accepted the challenge. Other California cities involved include San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and Fresno.

Progress: In Riverside, housing has been found for 11 veterans, but 44 more still need homes.

Resources: Veterans and their advocates can call the Access Center, 951-715-3434, or visit endhomeless.info. Lighthouse, 951-571-3533, and the Department of Veterans Affairs in Loma Linda, 909-825-7084, also assist homeless veterans.

Riversiders commitment to making one-other’s life a little better is a great example of Riverside acting as a unified city. The actions of all the participating organizations demonstrates that Riverside is a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.

To read the full article, click here.

Postcard Project Designed to Unite Residents With All Neighborhoods

Photo Credit: Riverside Neighborhood Partnership
Photo Credit: Riverside Neighborhood Partnership

“I love the Wood Streets because of the traditional design and landscape.”  These are the kinds of comments received on postcards written by City residents for the Neighborhood Postcard Project – a global participatory art project that fosters community connection through storytelling exchange.  Residents share personal positive stories about their neighborhood on a postcard and those postcards are delivered to random people in different neighborhoods within the same city.

The Unified City pillar group of Seizing Our Destiny has been collecting these postcards since the NeighborFest event held on May 16th.  The City of Riverside has 26 neighborhoods.  They are being collected two ways:  via a handwritten postcard with a blank space on the back for creativity and through the Seizing our Destiny website.  The ones collected on the website are being shared via social media.

Photo Credit: Riverside Neighborhood Partnership
Photo Credit: Riverside Neighborhood Partnership

The goal of the project is to build community connections, awareness and pride in our local treasures – our neighborhoods.

Postcards are available at various community events throughout the City and on-line at www.SeizingOurDestiny.com/postcard-project/.  For more information about the national project, go to www.neighborhoodpostcardproject.com.

UCR Admits Many First Generation Students

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Bo Kovitz and published in The Press Enterprise on July 2, 2015.)

University of California, Riverside
University of California, Riverside

According to preliminary UC admissions data released Thursday, July 2, 49 percent of new admissions to UCR were first-generation students, compared to 42 percent systemwide.

UCR admitted 19,237 California residents, which had one of the highest rates of resident admissions systemwide, second only to UC Merced.

UCR spokeswoman Kris Lovekin praised the incoming class.

“We know they will be talented and diverse,” she said in a statement. “We serve large numbers of first generation, low-income students — we are at the forefront of America’s race to regain its educational edge and increase economic opportunity and mobility.”

The UC system admitted 92,324 freshmen and 20,921 community college transfer students. UCR admitted 21,582 freshmen, and 5,500 community college transfer students.

UCR admitted 63 percent of community college transfer students who applied, the highest percentage of the nine UC campuses.

About 45 percent of UCR’s new admissions are Asian-American and 32 percent are Latino. UCR admitted 516 more Asian-American freshmen, 377 more Latino freshmen, 75 more African-Americans and 60 more white students than in 2014.

About 42 percent of freshman applicants admitted to UC Riverside were from low-income families, compared to 36 percent across the UC system. UCR’s rate was the second highest, behind UC Merced.

UCR has always been a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar. They strive everyday to offer opportunities for people of all cultures, backgrounds, and interests to receive a great education at a great price.